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Joseph Bertolozzi, "Bridge Music"

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cover image This is a fun album. It takes a high art concept and makes it playful. Albums that are made up purely of percussion are few and far between as it is, and the fact that the instrument in question here is the Mid-Hudson Bridge makes this a rare bird indeed.



On the first listen I was surprised by the cleanliness of the sound. It wasn’t as distorted or as jarring as I had expected. Although the source material was recorded in the field, to say that it is made up of field recording of a percussionist on a bridge would give the wrong impression. I originally thought that songs were somehow performed and captured live, but for a single person to play all the different sounds in real time would have been an impossible feat. The last track though features the composer talking about how the project was executed. Listening to him talk sounded a bit like being on a field trip or a tour—in fact the packaging of the CD looks like something found in a museum gift shop—but was nonetheless informative of his process. All the sounds except for one were recorded using a contact microphone. Every available surface was used from signs, to metal grates, to the thick and tightly wound steel of the suspension cables. The only sounds recorded with an open air mic were of small round objects like BBs and air gun pellets (among other things) poured down one of the bridges shafts, transforming it into a gigantic rain stick. After all of the source material was recorded it was assembled in the studio. Like a jigsaw puzzle the pieces fit together perfectly.

The notes derived from the bridge may not have the widest of range, but the rhythms bewilder with their compact variability. This is high energy music. Even as the tempos vary, speeding up and slowing down, deep thunderous pulses continue to pound into the brain. “The River That Flows Both Ways” begins with a low rumble in the background, and the sound of banging hammers. Overlaid atop is a melody that could have been played on a kalimba but it is not. “Rivet Gun” is Bertolozzi’s answer to slick electronic dance club music. Rapid fire machine gun pulses take the place of the hi-hat, and cacophonous smashes of iron girders stand in for the 4-to-the-floor bass kicks. There are even staggered thrums and throbs that create a time stretch illusion harkening back to the hey-day of drum ‘n bass songs where every other phrase contained a time stretched beat. “Dark Interlude” is a muted piece mainly in the lower register without sharp noises or the reverb laden clanging that features on other songs. Without keeping a steady beat, it reminds me of a broken metronome or a clock whose gears have shifted into keeping an alternate time, a freeform experiment in non-linear drumming.

The composition of “Bridge Music” has also culminated in an installation located at the FDR Mid-Hudson Bridge itself. It consists of two listening stations where pedestrians crossing the bridge can listen to any of the eleven tracks featured on this CD. The other element is a continuous stereo broadcast of the music on 87.9 FM available in the two parks that abut the bridge, Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, and Johnson-lorio Park in Highland.


Last Updated on Sunday, 17 January 2010 16:33  


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